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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
The man behind one of the most iconic American and global brands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT IGER, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY: Even if you’re a little bit unsure, maybe I don’t know that job is going to ask more of me
than I might be capable, you’ve got to walk through, you got to say yes, you know, give me a chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, joins me for an extensive conversation about his new memoir, his incredible career and some of the most difficult
times in his life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN KEMP, AUTHOR, “LEONARDO BY LEONARDO: One of the manuscripts she said, the eye does not know the edge of anybody. And indeed, Monalisa does
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Two Leonardo devotees marvel at his genius. Biographer, Walter Isaacson, sits down with author, Martin Kemp, about his book “Leonardo by
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in New York.
In the United States, there are few companies more culturally powerful and quintessentially American than the Walt Disney company and few companies
that pack such a global wallop too. Movies, theme parks, sports, the Disney company does it all and it’s gunning for more.
At the top of the corporate giant sits Bob Iger. The 68-year-old chairman and CEO took the reins of a flailing Disney back in 2005, and through the
acquisition of Pixar, Marvel and Lucas Films, Disney is booming again.
He’s been called one of the most successful CEOs in America. But his time in the front office is soon coming it an end. Iger says he’ll leave Disney
in 2021. And now, he’s opening up about his journey to the top in his new book “The Ride of a Lifetime,” which tells the story of how a Long Island
boy rose steadily up the company ladder, move from coast to coast and finally landed his dream job.
But it’s not all corporate talk. He joined me here in the studio and Iger gets personal opening up about his father, his major panic attack, his
friendship with Steve Jobs, and some of the most emotional days leading Disney.
Bob Iger, welcome to the program.
IGER: A pleasure.
AMANPOUR: You start your book unexpectedly. It’s with an enormous punch to the solar plexus about your hardest day at Disney. It’s such a tragic
day, and it’s when you learned about the death of a little boy, 2-year-old boy —
AMANPOUR: — at Disney World in Orlando by an alligator. He was killed. Just walk us through what you remember from that day and why you started
the book like that.
IGER: Well, I was in Shanghai to open Shanghai Disneyland, something that I had been working on for 18 years and I had traveled to China over 40
times. It was a very high time in my life and my career, and then that happened. And I wanted to start out that way because I wanted to point out
to people who would be reading a book by the CEO of the Walt Disney Company, which must be one of the greatest jobs in the world, that not
every day is easy, that not every day is fun. But, in fact, things can happen that are totally beyond your control and unforeseen, unpredictable.
AMANPOUR: And you talked about crying so hard that your contact lenses fell out.
IGER: Yes. What happened was hours before we were to open the park, I made a decision that I should speak to the parents of the young child that
was killed by the alligator, because I thought that the company could not just be an impersonal big corporation to this family that suffered such a
loss but it had to be a very personal communication. The only way to express sorrow, grief, to them to do it personally. So, I made a decision
to call them. I did not know whether I would be able to reach them, but I did.
AMANPOUR: Or whether they wanted to talk to you.
IGER: Correct. And I spoke with them. I got them on the phone, again, just hours before I was supposed to cut a ribbon with the government
officials from China to participate in what was supposed to be the wonderful moment for the company and for me personally.
And it was an unbelievably gut-wrenching experience. Now, obviously harder for the family than for me. But the difficulty of speaking to two parents
who had not only lost their child but had witnessed it on property that was ours while they were there to do nothing but have fun was extraordinary and
it was something from an emotional perspective that hit me even harder than I expected that it would.
And so, I got off the phone and my wife, Willow, came into the room. We were staying at a hotel. And I told her that I had just had the most
difficult conversation I’d ever had in my life. And I started to cry. It was — there was — I had kind of nothing left in me emotionally
after having spoken with them.
AMANPOUR: Yes. It must —
IGER: Particularly, given what their — what his father — the boy’s father said, Matt Graves, you know, when I said, if there’s anything I can
do for you, please let me know. And right there he said there is. He said, I don’t want my child’s life to have been lived in vain. I want you
to promise me that you’ll do whatever you possibly can to prevent this from happening to another child again. And I began that process as soon as I
got off the phone with him.
AMANPOUR: You write very emotionally, also, about your own family, your own father. And you talk about, you know, this larger than life mentor
figure in your life but that you began to understand fairly early that things were not all right, that he kept changing jobs, you didn’t really
understand why. And you have some very poignant quotes in your book, “As the older child, I bore the brunt of his emotional unpredictability. As I
grew older, I became more aware of my father’s disappointment in himself. He had led a life that was unsatisfying to him and was a failure in his own
eyes.” Tell me about that.
IGER: Well, he was a smart man, well-educated man. He went to an Ivy League school. He went to Warden. Was well read. He loved reading,
worldly, and that he was curious about the world. Played the trumpet. Was, you know, a good musician. Was a World War II veteran. Had a lot
going for him but he also was manic-depressive.
Not a term I was familiar with then. Not something that I could understand but I was aware from an early age, certainly, 9, 10, 11 years old that his
behavior was an illness. It was actually spoken that way in the house.
AMANPOUR: Which is quite rare.
IGER: It was. My parents were quite honest with me. I was the oldest child of two. I have a younger sister, Carolyn. But it was made clear to
me he was ill and was seeing doctors. Doctors then were psychiatrics called shrinks, by the way, at that point, which was kind of a bad word, a
stigma to it.
He had electric shock therapy at one point. I’m not certain whether he tried to commit suicide or not, but there was a moment in my life, deep in
the — you know, in my deepest memory what I think that’s possible. And he ultimately suffered from mood swings that were extraordinary. And so, it
was very hard for him to remain employed. And not only did he change jobs a lot, but there were long periods of time where he didn’t have a job.
AMANPOUR: I wonder how that affected your career then.
IGER: I think it affected me in very profound ways. First of all, even with all this trouble, he believed in his son. I don’t know what it was he
saw in me but he believed in me. And I don’t think you can really believe in yourself until someone else believes that there’s value within you. We
all need someone else to show that you — you know, that have — to have belief in you, have faith in you. So, there was that.
I think living in that situation, it taught me to be resilient and to understand that there was unpredictable situation right there in my own
home and to learn how to cope with that. And then, lastly, and probably this is the most powerful, is I promised myself I would not disappoint
myself. In other words — and I don’t know whether I said I’m not going to be a failure, but I think that’s the easiest way to describe it, I’m not
going to be a failure.
AMANPOUR: So, walk us through, at one point, you’re a weatherman. You wanted to be a newsman.
AMANPOUR: That didn’t happen. Give us a little bit of the early Bob Iger.
IGER: Well, it’s interesting, you know, when you look at a career that’s 45 years long, it begins at an entry-level position and ends in the
position that I’m in, to the outside world it looks kind of linear, you know, it goes sort of from down here all the way sort of straight up. And
we both know, you said you were here 37 years, it doesn’t quite work that way there, it turns and twists and there are things that you encounter that
you could never predict.
So, I started out from an early age, high school, wanting to be a newscaster. Yes, that was my dream. And so, I studied it in college and I
immediately got a job, as we did then, at a local TV station. I was a weatherman. I didn’t know a thing about weather, although I joked because
it was in Upstate New York where the weather is pretty unpredictable that it taught me how to give people bad news, which is a great line. And I did
that hoping it would lead me to the next job and the next. And ultimately, I would be sitting in the big chair at the network on the air every day
And it didn’t happen because I lost faith in myself early on. Not in totality, but it’s very specifically in that pursuit. I just looked at
myself, watched others, you know, either I lacked confidence or lacked the ability or I lacked confidence because I lacked ability. And I decided to
basically pivot and take a job in production, sort of off air rather than on-air. And I was lucky, I ended up with ABC thanks to a (INAUDIBLE). My
uncle was in the hospital with an executive of ABC who said, you know, when your nephew is ready, have him come see me. And I did and I got a job.
AMANPOUR: And kind of the rest is kind of history.
IGER: Yes. It’s history, it’s long history. And at times, it’s kind of, I don’t know, complicated history but it’s my history.
AMANPOUR: The Eisner, you know, chapters are pretty revealing, pretty eye popping. I mean, you are quite out there talking about Michael Eisner, who
was, you know, this larger than life figure. You said, “Michael would bring me in on decisions at times and confided me. And then suddenly, he
would go cold and keep me at arm’s length.” You called him a pessimist who was projecting doom and gloom through the company. Nobody wanted to follow
So, those are difficult times. I mean, we’re leaping ahead to you trying to move up the Disney ladder.
AMANPOUR: Walt Disney was dead almost 20 years when he came in and the company was more (INAUDIBLE). And he recreated it in so many ways,
creatively, financially, you name it. The strength of the brand was just brilliant and was considered one of the best CEOs in the country.
And then we went through tough times. And it just so happened those tough times coincided with about the time he had bought the company I work for,
Capital Cities/ABC. So, I experienced those tough times with him. He did get pessimistic at times. We went through tough times. But that was such
a great lesson because you realize as a leader, you have to be a realist, you can’t basically gloss over the toughest times. But you have to at
least point the way, meaning into the future, in a positive way. We’re going to get through this, either we’re resilient or we have the
wherewithal to endure this or figure it out.
AMANPOUR: And you talk about — well, I mean, you know, interviewing for the job. Because, obviously, clearly now you were rising through the
Disney ranks and Michael was rising down through his career. And it was clear that it was going to be a change.
AMANPOUR: And you wanted to, you know, take that job. Do you think that he thought you were angling for his job, that it was unseemly? Do you
think that’s why it was so difficult between you and him for a while?
IGER: Well, I wrote early on there was a moment that we had, which I’m not sure he recalls, that I was — he was asking me to move to Los Angeles and
move up in the company and help him run it. And at that point, I confronted him on having been someone unpredictable with me, which he did.
He dismissed that and he was offering me a big role and he — by the way, and I got it. I became president and COO.
And there was a moment when he mentioned that he thought we were competing with one another. And then that went away. It never surfaced again. By
the time I was being considered to run the company, it was already a foregone conclusion that he was leaving. I was not competing with him. He
made a decision to leave at the end of his contract and the board accepted it because the company had been through a lot and believes it needed
And so, you know, actually, in the process, which is long and arduous for me, he was supportive of me through that to become his successor, which I
AMANPOUR: Expect that Tom Murphy said to you at one point, this is your writing, “I hate to give you bad news, but you need to leave Disney.
Michael doesn’t believe in you and he told the board you cannot succeed him. You need to quit. Even though they formally stated that I was a
candidate. I don’t think anyone on the board thought I would get the job and many of them thought I shouldn’t.” That must have been an awful time.
IGER: Well, two different times. In 1999, Tom Murphy did call me and tell me I should leave the company because no one had any confidence in me,
which I didn’t do.
AMANPOUR: That’s nice.
IGER: Unfortunately, that the call came while I was just starting a vacation. I don’t — that’s not the right way to start a vacation. I
don’t recommend that. But then the succession process and when the board was considering me for the job seriously it was six years — it five years
later in 2004. And I was a dark horse for it. Meaning, I was not — I was inside candidate, the only one, but the —
AMANPOUR: And people thought that perhaps Disney’s position at the time and some of its woes required an outside change agent. I mean, there were
people on the board who didn’t actually think that you should be the successor, right, and you had a hard time. There was something like dozens
IGER: Yes. When the process unfolded, I’m quite certain that a majority of the board believed that needed to go outside, that the company needed
change because I had been with the company a long time. And for five years been its president and COO that I did not, in any way, represent change. I
was going to be more of the same.
IGER: But they — fortunately, for me, they decided that they should consider me as the inside candidate and that lead to 15 interviews, which
is how long it took me to convince them that even though I was an insider, that I could bring change to the company. And it was a long arduous
process that took a lot out of me. I had a panic attack in the middle of it.
AMANPOUR: Well, I was going to say, yes, you write about thinking that you actually were having a heart attack.
IGER: Yes. In the middle of it, I was, obviously, very, very intent on getting the job. It was important to me on many levels. And I
mentioned earlier about believing in myself. I believed in myself. I believed I could do it and wanted it very much. And it was getting so
strenuous and it was so uncertain that it went when I had taken my son to a basketball game and in the middle it I felt a pounding on my — a tightness
in my chest and shortness of breath and I was feeling clammy. I was certain I was having a heart attack.
And of course, stupidly, instead of, you know, calling a medical professional, I got to the car and drove home.
AMANPOUR: With your son in the car?
IGER: Yes, with my son. I immediately saw my doctor and he said, you’re having a classic panic attack. It was the most relaxing thing anyone had
ever said to me at that point. But, look, today, I’ve got, you know, this fantastic job and I’ve had this wonderful experience. And the pain of that
process is so distant to me and so irrelevant in many respects. Although, that substance we talked about earlier having resilience and believing in
one’s self and, you know, me being patient or —
AMANPOUR: I know she’s sticking with it.
IGER: Yes. Again, it’s easy for me to say because doors constantly opened, which is another lesson, which if that door opens, walk through it,
don’t hesitate. Even if you’re a little bit unsure, maybe I don’t know that job is going to ask more of me than I might be capable, you’ve got to
walk through, you’ve got to say yes, you know, give me a chance.
AMANPOUR: Since your book is about lessons and tips for leadership, you had an amazing moment when you first, you know, became CEO. You went back
to re-innovate with one of the greats disrupters, Steve Jobs, right. Pixar had been with Disney. There was a rupture and you wanted to bring it back
to Disney. Describe that. I mean, why did you think that was the right thing to do?
IGER: When I get the job and Disney Animation has a tough 10-year run. That great era had been over for a while and we hadn’t been able to find
ourselves. So, I knew when I got the job that if I had one priority in terms of business performance or creative performance, it was Disney
Animation, fix it.
And I could just tell and my wife, who is wonderfully supportive that every once, you know, just hits me in the face with some dose of reality or
statistic, she said something like the average tenure of a CEO in America or Fortune 500 CEOs (INAUDIBLE)3 1/2 years. So basically, get to it, you
know, and don’t —
AMANPOUR: You don’t have too much time?
IGER: And interestingly enough, don’t be timid. You know, don’t take baby steps is what she was saying. What happened was, I get the job and I
called Steve Jobs, told him I was coming in, wanted to get to know him better. He wasn’t really a believer because he had a tough relationship
with Disney, which have started great but ended up tough. And I said I got an idea.
At that point, the iPod was out but the video iPod wasn’t. I had this notion of putting old TV shows on iTunes because I was a big music listener
and I had all kinds of playlists. Why not do it for TV? And he — so, I called him and gave him that idea, which, of course, he already. I never
really gave Steve too many ideas.
AMANPOUR: Thanks, Bob.
IGER: Yes, exactly. And he said, well, let’s talk. And he came down and showed me this prototype of this cute little iPod with a little post and
stamp screen in it, you know, a little tv. And he said, if we put this out, will you put your shows on it? I said yes. And we did a day in five
days, you know.
Suddenly, he looked at me differently than he had before. Wow, I like technology. I understand that, you know, the importance of technology and
creativity coming together and how powerful that can be. The deal was done quickly, and that gave me the right, in a way, both in his eyes but also
within me a confidence to call him and say, I got a crazy idea. How about selling Pixar? And the rest is history.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And very sadly, before the deal was announced, he told you something that only his wife and him knew at the time, that his cancer had
come back. He reveals that to you and you say, Steve, why are you telling me this and why are you telling me now? I’m about to become your biggest
shareholder and a member of your board and I think I owe you the right given this knowledge to back out of the deal. That’s what he says to you.
That must have been just another one of those tragic detours.
IGER: Yes. And again, I think it speaks to the unpredictability of life and work and careers. But we had, you know, worked for months on not only
negotiating the deal but my convincing the Disney board to let us buy Pixar for $7.4 billion. I was a brand-new CEO.
AMANPOUR: Did they think you were nuts?
IGER: I think when I first brought it up, they — many of them thought I was nuts and the others didn’t really think they had to worry about it
because they thought it was so farfetched. And then, of course, it slowly became a reality. And so, when we ultimately did the deal and planned to
announce it, which we did for Pixar, I went there, and an hour before the announcement, Steve said, let’s take a walk. And we sat on a bench, he put
his arm behind me and he told me that he — we — the world new he had cancer some years earlier. I think he announced that it was
cured. It was an operable form — pancreatic cancer at that point.
And in fact, he talked about it in a great graduation speech —
AMANPOUR: Yes, he did.
IGER: — that he gave at Stanford University. And when he sat me down, he said, I’m going to tell you something that only my wife, Laurene, and my
doctor knows and that is that my cancer is back. The public, obviously, did not know that.
And when — as you said, when I asked him why, he felt obligated because he was becoming our largest shareholder and a member of the board and that
Pixar would be so important to Disney to tell me that, to give me a chance to walk away.
AMANPOUR: And you may have made a decision but what about your — I mean, obviously, we know what happened. But was your board hard to convince?
IGER: No. I didn’t — well, the board was initially hard to convince that we should buy Pixar but slowly but surely —
AMANPOUR: But even with his terminal illness —
IGER: No, I didn’t reveal that. No. What happened was I had an hour or less. By the time we sat down and he told me, the clock was ticking on an
announcement where we had actually, I think, gathered the press and investors too of — either a call, I can’t recall exactly, but we were at
And so, I literally looked at my watch and realizing I have to make a decision in less than an hour. The board had already approved it, our
board. I had already convinced them it was the right thing.
AMANPOUR: But didn’t they think he was the person to make it such a great deal?
IGER: Well, I quickly — I had to make a snap judgment because Steve said, you can’t tell anybody. It’s not like I can call a meeting. And again,
the clock is ticking. And the judgment that I made, after talking to him more, he — you — I could just tell, first of all, everyone knew Steve was
a fighter. But in that brief conversation, he said things to me that gave me the belief that if anybody was going to survive this for a period — a
long period of time, it would be him.
And he said at one point, when he was — he had promised to himself he would be at his son’s high school graduation, which was a few years off.
So, I said, listen, I’m not backing out. I don’t even know how I would could or what I would say. So, let’s do it. And we did. And I, then, I
was let in on a secret that the world didn’t really fight out about for a few years. Other people did but it was relatively private to Steve and his
immediate colleagues at Apple and family and medical team.
AMANPOUR: You talk a lot about your wife, Willow. And at one point in the book, you say about having to move across country because you were bay
based in New York. She’s from New York. Here I was asking another wife to follow me across the country again. Sacrifice her own career in the
service of mine.
IGER: Yes. I had been married before to a wonderful person named Susan who was a news producer in New York and I was moved by ABC to L.A. in 1989.
She had to give up her job and did it for me. And we moved our family and then we ultimately separated and got divorced and I moved back to New York.
Willow, at the time — that I was being asked to move back to L.A. by Michael Eisner and Disney was an anchor at CNN.
AMANPOUR: Here at CNN. A full disclosure, longtime friend of mine, even before I met you.
IGER: Yes, that’s true. That’s true. We go back a long way. And she had a great job, an hour a night co-anchoring a show called “Money Line,” a lot
of stature. I thought a really bright future. And here I say, I’m being given the opportunity to be president and COO of the Walt Disney company.
What do you think?
And fortunately, for her, at the time, her company, then Time Warner, allowed her to anchor the show from there. But she knew it was suboptimal
and it didn’t last long. And in fact, it didn’t. So, she made a tremendous career sacrifice for me. And I think that’s important to talk
about because women, to get to those roles, I think have a harder fight, particularly a different time.
You know, you mentioned 37 years. I hope that the plight of women today or the fight that women have is not as arduous as it was for your generation
but I believe it’s more arduous than it should be. You can’t take it lightly when anyone uproots themselves with their career to move for
anybody else or for a spouse. I mean, it says a lot about the strength of a relationship and maybe it says a lot about the promises you make when you
But never the less, she did that, made the sacrifice and it did have an impact on her career.
AMANPOUR: Could we just say that she’s now dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at —
IGER: In journalism, yes.
AMANPOUR: Right? Yes.
IGER: Yes. I’m extremely proud of her.
IGER: But it took a lot to get there and she gave up a lot.
AMANPOUR: Yes, she did. What about, though, the image of girls, aspirations that Disney has perpetuated throughout itself history, that
that is what a girl actually aspires to, to marry a great prince and one day wake up to this lovely life?
IGER: Well, I think we perpetuated that in our history but not in our current history or current history or current history can be
current. We’re quite mindful of the power of the stories that we tell. And the ability that we have to empower people, to inspire people, to be a
force of good in the world as opposed to just perpetuating stereotypes.
And if you look at the stories that we’ve told in the manner in which we’ve portrayed women in those stories, things have changed a lot and things have
changed a lot at Disney. You can just look at one of our most successful animated films, “Frozen,” where a character in it named Anna, I, obviously,
am steeped in Disney storytelling lore, with having a relationship with a prince and ends up getting gravely ill. And you expect that it is the love
of the prince, the kiss of the price that’s going to save her, and it’s not at all. It’s her sister’s love that saves her. That’s a huge twist and a
And I think the notion of telling stories where the happiness of a woman or the fulfillment that a woman is going is solely based on the man in her
life or even a partner is ridiculous in today’s world. So, what we try to do is whether you’re looking at Captain Marvel or whether you’re looking at
movies — Pixar’s movie “Brave” or “Inside Out,” there are many where we portray women in much more active, stronger, more — you know, more
independent ways, even when we’ve remade films.
If you look at “Cinderella,” which we brought back and made it a live action film after having done it as an animated film, where you look at
“Beauty and the Beast” or the recent version of “Lion King” and the portrayal of Nala in the — in this film versus the animated film, which is
a fairly enlightened film in that case, made in the mid ’80s, there are differences in the stories that we tell because we want young women, we
want people, actually, to view these characters as role models as people you look up to. Now, not the villains, that’s different, but — and I
think we’ve done a good job at that.
And interestingly enough, I mentioned the power that I have in this world. We both know that the change in this world is vast and profound and rapid
and it creates unpredictability and anxiety. And if there is a time when people need to be either entertained or enlightened by storytelling, it’s
today. And so, I love not only Disney’s place in the world but I like accepting the responsibility to try to make the world a better place.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let me ask you about that because there have been several newspaper articles about the remaking of a lot of movies that
you’ve just spoken about. This is “The Financial Times. “Disney’s heritage of classic animation features has been a cash cow for years and
decades. Reissues, remakes, et cetera, it’s come a point at which milking a cow ends up with ringing a cow.”
“Chicago Tribune,” “Redoing familiar titles is an investment in the past not the future. If Disney’s health and wellbeing depends wholly on
recycling, then our collective movie world shrinks. Iger isn’t talking like a visionary, he’s talking like a company head, disinterested in
creative risk even though his company’s legacy life, blood and future all depends on it.”
IGER: Should I Mary Poppins just to pish-posh or something like that?
AMANPOUR: Well, if you like.
IGER: I think —
AMANPOUR: But there is a lot of remakes and I just —
IGER: Surely. And I’ll you why there are a lot of remakes. Look, we like telling stories. We obviously manage our company from the bottom line. I
continue to grow the bottom line and return capital to the shareholders, of course.
But in today’s world it’s really important to be relevant. And the stories of yesterday, while they had great value, don’t appear or don’t feel as
relevant today as they did to generations — before today’s kid generations.
In other words, when a child today looks at a 2D animated film, hand drawn animation, they can be beautiful films and they can be terrific stories.
Two things occur. First of all, they don’t seem fresh or modern because just of the genre, the artistic genre. And often the stories don’t feel as
So, here we have the ability to take the core of the these great stories and characters, to use technology to prevent them in much more modern and
relevant ways visually and to change the story enough so that not only are they more politically correct or culturally correct, but so they can be
actually a force for change and a force for good for the world. There’s absolutely nothing for us to apologize about.
Do we make a lot of money doing just that? We do but that’s because they feel so much more relevant. One could argue that it’s a big risk making —
brining “Lion King” back, making “Lion King” again. One of the most successful animated films of all time. You do you it again, why did
anybody want to see “Lion King” again, really? They could see it — they probably own it or had downloaded it or have the DVD, quiet little DVD.
However, when they see it with this imagery and this power and the voice of Beyonce and new music —
and new music, it’s still fundamentally Lion King, but it drives people to movie theaters. It’s done over $1.6 billion in box office not because of
its commercial appeal. It’s because of its artistic appeal.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, AMANPOUR HOST: So you are a very successful CEO and you’ve done amazing things for the bottom line at Disney, but you’ve also
talked about power of an individual of a CEO including, you know, your own power. You said the moment you start to believe it all too much, the
moment you look yourself in the mirror and see a title emblazoned on your forehead, you’ve lost your way. Were you in danger of seeing a title on
IGER: I think I’m always in danger of that because when you’re in jobs like this, particularly a company that’s as large and well-known as Disney,
that has had a significant amount of success, the world props you up, builds you up, and starts to see you as your title and nothing else. And I
– that’s not a criticism. It’s just reality.
And so, you start believing that your title’s kind of what enters the room first and not yourself, but that’s your –
AMANPOUR: Which is kind of true.
IGER: — your sense of yourself in the world becomes your title, and that’s really dangerous. What I’m trying to do is I’m trying to resist the
force, so to speak, from someone who’s in the Star Wars business a bit.
AMANPOUR: So then, there has been some criticism. There was criticism I think by The Los Angeles Times. I can’t remember. Some critics were not
allowed to come to see one of the films because of what they had written about it. And as you know, Abby Disney has quite publically challenged
your salary compared to the salary of people who work for Disney. Abby Disney is, in her own right, a very accomplished film marker, and she is
the daughter of Roy and the grand niece of Walt. The ratio she points out is – she says it’s insane, a ratio of 1,424 times more than the median
Disney employee. And today, the idea of pay inequality and the huge inequality gap is major and it’s a big factor in the presidential campaign,
particularly with the Democratic candidates.
IGER: I think companies today, particularly large companies, have a responsibility to make the lives of the people who work for them better, to
do things that improve their lives because employees – we call them cast members – who have more happier lives, more fulfilled lives, less anxiety
in their life are better employees as well, and I think it’s just better societally.
So as we see it, there’s a delicate balance to run a company between delivering value to shareholders or earnings — there’s constant pressure
to do that, something any CEO is aware of – delivering value to customer is really important. That’s a price to value relationship. What you make,
how you price it, how you bring it onto the world, and obviously delivering value and creating value and opportunity for you employees.
All three are critical and must be in real balance. And when you lose that balance, I believe you lose your company in many respects. So that’s what
we tried to do. We’ve tried to grow our earnings. We’ve tried to keep our product of high quality and accessible to people all over the world. And
we have tried really hard to improve the lives of the people who work for us through a variety of different means – through compensation, through
benefits, through opportunity.
The number of people that start out at our company and move up the ranks in that company is extraordinary, by creating more jobs, tens of thousands of
more jobs created by our company in the United States since I’ve been CEO. By doing I think really bold things, like recently we brought a program
forward for our hourly employees – 88,000 in the Untied States – called Aspire is free education up front. If you don’t have a high school degree,
we’ll pay for you to get it. If you don’t have a college degree, we’ll pay for you to get it. If you like vocational training, we’ll pay for that.
If you want to go to graduate school, we’ll pay for that, too.
8,800 of our employees are already doing this, and 40 percent of the 88,000 have signed up to do it. Completely free. The only stipulation is you
have to be working for us when you’re going – when you’re getting the education. Once you get it, if you want to leave, that’s up to you. But I
believe that if you do get it, your opportunity in our company is even greater. So it’s a delicate balance. It’s one I’m extremely mindful of.
These are tough times in the United States and in the world for many people. We know that there’s been stagnation in terms of the middle class.
We know certainly about income disparity. We’re well-aware of all of those things.
And look, for The Walt Disney Company, behaving as a good citizen of the world is really important to us, and that’s not just with, you know, our
customers. That’s for the people who work for us.
AMANPOUR: Great. And listen, after this amazing career and you did say in your book that you were contemplating a run for the presidency. You
didn’t do that and now you’re retirement date has been extended to the end of 2021, I believe.
What does Bob Iger do for an encore? What do you do to make your life happy, satisfied–
IGER: Go to Disneyland.
What are you going to do next? I’ll have the luxury of taking some time to think about it. I don’t know. I don’t think there will be anything that
is as large in my life as this is.
Beyond obviously the most important, which is my wife and my family. I’ll say I have no need to make any plans and I have no anxiety about it.
AMANPOUR: And you’re not too worried that you didn’t run for the presidency?
IGER: No, I’m not worried at all. I guess–
AMANPOUR: No regrets.
IGER: — you can probably say — no, I’m not regretful. I’m probably a little bit relieved. Look, contemplating and doing it, there’s a big
distance between those. I thought about it. I thought that America wanted an outsider.
Now we have an outsider as a president now. Now he’s not an outsider anymore, he’s n insider because he’s been there for a few years. And I
thought maybe the profile that I would bring to national politics running one of the greatest companies in the world and being a force of such I
think good in the world.
And knowing what I know about America and America’s place in the worlds because Disney is such a global company. I had something to offer but it
didn’t work out and no regrets.
AMANPOUR: Bob Iger, thank you very much indeed.
IGER: Thanks, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: And Iger says all the proceeds of his book will go towards scholarships to foster diversity in journalism. Now, if Bob Iger oversaw
the renaissance of Disney, Leonardo da Vinci certainly optimizes the renaissance man. And this year marks the 500th anniversary of his death
and his genius.
Martin Kemp, his professor emeritus of art history at Oxford University. And he’s one of the world’s leading experts on Leonardo. His book
“Leonardo by Leonardo” is a stunning gallery of the master’s 27 existing paintings paired with Kemp’s lifetime of scholarship and insight. And it
includes extensive reflections by Leonardo himself.
Professor Kemp sat down with our Walter Isaacson who also panned a widely acclaimed biography. And they shared insights into the injuring brilliance
of Leonardo over half a millennium.
WALTER ISAACSON, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You are of course the greatest Leonardo scholar in our time. You keep making new discoveries
But in this latest book “Leonardo by Leonardo,” wonderful art, beautiful art book. What you do is instead of trying to make new discoveries; you
look at the paintings yet anew. Why did you decide to do that?
MARTIN KEMP, EMERITUS PROFESSOR AT UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD: It’s an odd story in a way. It’s approached by (inaudible) arts and media. And they said —
(inaudible) Roosevelt in particular said would I do a nook on Leonardo’s paintings.
And I thought I’ve written enough about Leonardo. I’ve written about the paintings. But it was surprising in a way. I’d never done a book just
about the paintings. So I thought it was a distinct advantage in doing a book about the paintings so I could look intensive with each one but also
look at that in the context of all of them.
And I never done that and look at it freshly and come to (inaudible) the primary sources vile the contracts, vile Leonardo’s words, vile (inaudible)
words and to give it a freshness and directness.
And above all, to make people look. We delegate acts looking to our phone these days. That’s (inaudible). People don’t look at Mona Lisa anymore;
they just take a selfie or an image.
So the point of the book above all visually is to have these absolutely striking plates where people have to look because it grabs you. You look
at the place and you think oh, that’s just fantastic. So, it’s reinstating the acts of looking hard.
ISAACSON: Let’s start with Ginevra de’ Benci, a painting he does when he’s very young, the only painting that’s in the United States now. And just
like the Mona Lisa, it’s the wife of a florentine cloth merchant done in three quarters profile.
Tell me what you learned by looking intensely at that picture and then maybe we’ll contrast it to the Mona Lisa.
KEMP: Yes. Well looking at the picture, like all Leonardo’s has extraordinary presence. They’re kind if uncanny as you all know. In front
of Leonardo, the pictures sort of do things. They’re not just sort of (inaudible) objects, a face map of Ginevra.
And it’s very rare at that time for a woman to look at you and it slightly bad manners in a way. So, Ginevra must’ve been complicit in this way of
portraying her so that she is looking at you. She’s not smiling but she’d definitely scrutinizing you. And it has that slightly uneasy quality.
ISAACSON: One of the things about the painting is it has a river that seems to come down from the ancient mountains of eons of time away and flow
through civilization and almost connect to her as if Leonardo’s quest is saying how do we fit in to this cosmos.
And of course you see the same thing with the “Mona Lisa.” To what extent was that a quest of Leonardo da Vinci?
KEMP: You’re absolutely right that the — the landscape is not just a backdrop, it’s not just sitting there as a scenic thing as it might do in a
say a painting from the Netherlands, which Leonardo knew but he actually makes it a living thing.
And there’s a parallel between — say look at her hair. Her hair is all these water seas (ph) or — and later he says the movement of water is like
the curling of hair or the curling of hair is like the movement of water.
You’ve got the weight of the hair, you’re got the impetus (ph) as he calls — the impetus of the currents and you’ve got the revolution, you get a
helix. Now there’s no theoretical writing at that time but it’s instinctual, I think, very early on.
He’s — he’s got that sense that the movement of water in the landscape is reflected in the very turbulent motion of her hair.
ISSACSON: Wow. And so we look at Ginevra de’ Benci, and as you say he understands the patterns of swirls and curls and vortexes. We see that
pattern across all of nature; even in his studies of the human heart he looks at how a vortex works (ph). How important is it that Leonardo sees
patterns in so many different fields how they connect?
KEMP: Yes. He sees analogist forms everywhere. He — he’s a lateral thinker, he’s a lateral seer we could say. He senses the commonality of
force and form in nature in all these different areas and everything branches out from that.
So far from doing lots of things, which he kind of relates, there’s a common core of understanding of how nature works and the human beings place
in nature and all these things, whether it’s geology physics and anatomy. They all branch out from this common trunk.
ISSACSON: When you look at the “Mona Lisa” and you’ve had the great pleasure of seeing it out of the glass, when they’d take it out of the
frame once a year, what do you see that the rest of us, when we go there instead of using our cell phones and do selfies, we should look at?
KEMP: We see the picture as a living thing and I’ve seen it with different illumination. One year when I was there with Pierre Rosenberg, the great
former director of the Louvre, we looked at it under artificial light.
We looked at it with the light coming through the window. And this sounds a bit like — a bit portentous in a way but the thing lives. It has a
living presence. And a few artists can do that. Rembrandt can do that; Vermeer can do it, and so on.
But there’s a catalog of artist who don’t just do vivid pictures but where the picture has a living presence and there’s no other way to describe it.
ISSACSON: And her smile is almost interactive and it seems, to me, connecting all he knows about optics and art and science and anatomy, with
the beauty that he sees in the emotions of humans.
KEMP: That’s absolutely right. He’s using what I call the optics of uncertainty. As a young man he assumes that what you see is what you see.
It’s a geometrical process and basically the eye is like a pair of compasses or dividers measuring nature.
He then, partly through his knowledge of Islamic (ph) science, an author called Alhasan (ph) in the west (inaudible). He knows and learns how
complicated vision is. That it’s a very slippery thing.
ISSACSON: It doesn’t have sharp lines.
KEMP: He says at one point in — in the manuscripts, he said the eye does not know the edge of any body. And indeed “Mona Lisa” does that.
Therefore, you’ve got an expression that you project into it and it relates very much to Renaissance poetry where the beloved ladies are always out of
(Inaudible) or these beloved ladies who the poet — poets always write about are always — some requited, their always divine — (inaudible)
divine. They’re always out of reach. So there’s this odd combination of poesia or of poetry within Soleto (ph) and (inaudible) and somehow are the
science, poetry, imagination, all these things come as one with Leonardo.
ISSACSON: When you look at “The Last Supper” you see the artificial perspective that Leonardo makes it looker deeper in the wall than it does.
And all of these things from the gestures and emotion on the face to the narrative flow of the painting, it seems so much to come from every trick
Leonardo has learned both from optics and the theater. When you write about it in this book, how do you deal with that?
KEMP: I look at it as exactly that.
As taking all these elements and bringing it together in a great statement. And we know how carefully he thought about that picture, ranging from how
do you create this illusion of the room without making it stick to the real room too carefully, he separates that bit of space as a kind of separate
island, so it doesn’t become too vulnerable to our changes of viewpoint. So, that’s sort of a mechanical, optical thing to, what I’ve called the El
Cheto (ph) — well, what he call the El Concheto Delanima (ph), the concept or purpose of the soul of the people.
So, each of those decuples he looks at, he thinks, how do they react. They say, is it me do the betrayal (ph), one of you shall betray me —
ISAACSON: This is — this is — this is terrible.
KEMP: Another one goes — oh, I told you so, and they’re incredibly, beautifully I — characterized individual reactions, which he’s thought
through. Judas, of course knows, and starts back, he’s rigid, his tendons in his neck are standing out. So —
ISAACSON: But he’s reaching to dip with his hand, do you feel like it’s a narrative.
KEMP: Absolutely. Yes, normally Judas is put on the other side of the table. Leonardo doesn’t want to do that. He starts doing that in a
drawing and thinks, well, I can differentiate Judas physiologically. I don’t have to do it with this physical separation.
ISAACSON: It makes it feels like a stage narrative with everybody sort of facing the audience and then the narrative going through each emotion.
KEMP: It’s a very artificial construction. As you know, Walter, there’s not room for them all to sit down behind the table. They’re standing up
and moving, so he didn’t want it to get too diffused and spread out, which is the problem with the “Last Supper,” if you do each of the decuples with
lots of space and between them and then it becomes a really diffused narrative. So, he’s compacted this compacted this and you don’t realize
how artificial it is until you actually start to analyze it.
ISAACSON: And, of course, one of the most beautiful things is John looking beautiful, sort of leaning a bit and you have the Dan Brown thesis that
this is Mary Magdalene —
KEMP: Yes, yes.
ISAACSON: There’s a lot of people come up with all sorts of thesis. They must all write to you, because you’re the world’s expert on it.
ISAACSON: One who wrote you, said, oh, I found another Leonardo and it was La Bella Principessa. And at first you react. I read your — say, OK, I
get hundreds of these things, I’m not going to look at this one.
KEMP: Yes, yes.
ISAACSON: And you ended up being the lead person who helps authenticate that as a lost Leonardo drawing really.
KEMP: Sure. In the case of — see, when I named La Bella Princepessa, you think, well, you know, it looked — it looked almost too good to be true,
so I thought that this peculiar, there’s something wrong with it.
And I waited until I was due to go to Geneva anyway, which is where it was in store and I thought it was worth looking at, by the file I was sent, a
nice high resolution to digital file looked pretty good.
And, yes, you see — wow, you see this, it came up in this Freeport (ph), it came up from downstairs wand was put on a sponge wedgy so that we could
see it at the proper angle. And it’s just amazing.
ISAACSON: The most controversial and interesting present day question about a Leonardo painting and whether it’s authentic is Salvator Mundi. And I
think over the past two years, my own feelings have gone in waves about how much of that is truly Leonardo’s brush strokes, how much of it was by his
studio, whether it’s really a Leonardo.
Give me your thoughts.
KEMP: Well, I think it’s — it’s undoubtedly Leonardo. It has been said that it’s a conventional subject frontal and Leonardo wouldn’t have done
that, but if you’re doing a Salvator Mundi, that’s what it is.
Salvator Mundi has three things, it has to have the direct look, which is the whole idea is you can’t escape. You’ve got the blessing, and we know
that Leonardo altered all the painter (ph), let’s say, at the moment (ph), altered the position of one of the fingers, which is — which is different
from the copies.
And we know that he’s got to hold a globe, and the globe is normally, what in Latin is called the Obis Terrarum, the orb of the earth. And what
Leonardo has done, he’s portrayed this as rock, crystal sphere. I did some geology at Cambridge when I was doing science, so I — when I saw it, I
thought, oh, that’s not glass.
ISAACSON: It’s got the inclusions in it.
KEMP: With little inclusions, these little air spaces. They’re not bubbles, nice little round bubbles like you get in glass or you probably
don’t want round bubbles in glass. And that then, if it’s crystal lined sphere it alters the meaning of it. So, this very conventional subject,
the crystal line sphere is the crystal line sphere of the fixed stars, which was thought to be a crystal line sphere in which all the fixed stars
revolved the earth.
That’s the limits of the finite universe, outside that is God the spiritual realm,
in a realm which Leonardo believes we can’t enter because it’s infinite realm, not encompassable, so he’s saying that Christ is the Savior of the
cosmos, not just the savior of the earth. And within a subject, which is very conventional, this is very smart.
ISAACSON: There’s always something new to learn about Leonardo, and you’re life has been doing that. One of the most fascinating to me is when you
and a couple of other researchers finally discovered the background of his mother who had been lost to history.
KEMP: Now, this was exciting. It was discovered by my co-author of the book on the Mona Lisa, Duceppe Palanti (ph), who’d been unearthing
documents relating to Mona Lisa and the family.
And so, I said to him Vinci is a small place. Certainly Caterina – you know the mother was called Caterina who was married off soon after
producing Leonardo. There must be a trace of Caterina in the record.
And Duceppe (ph) sleuthed out this substory of Caterina, the – her father was an ne’er-do-well who just appeared. Her mother died. She was brought
up by members of the family as an orphan basically, and her on (ph) a summer evening in 1451, her Ser Piero, the rising young notary who produced
lots of children later –
ISAACSON: Yes. Ser Piero da Vinci from (inaudible).
KEMP: Yes, Ser Piero da Vinci, the lawyer and this young peasant girl, and they produced Leonardo. She is married off very quickly to get her out of
the way, but Leonardo is a welcomed child. It’s just the lack of – a lot of people were born illegitimately in Italy at this time.
ISAACSON: Was he lucky to be born illegitimate meaning he didn’t have to become a notary, he didn’t have to go to college and get the scholastic
wisdom of the middle ages stuffed into his brain?
KEMP: Yes, I think what we know of Leonardo’s temperament, the idea of him sitting and grasping the arcane facts of Latin law is probably not quite
his mateo (ph).
ISAACSON: One of the few personal things that’s in the notebooks is Salai, sort of scampsih (ph) companion. What do you make of Salai?
KEMP: Salai is a fascinating figure. He’s always been subject to a film or a novel (ph), he should be. This young man, (inaudible) — who wasn’t
from a bad family. He’s not a peasant – arrived in Leonardo’s studio in the 1490s and was a rouge. He was obviously incredibly beguiling but very
rougeish, and he stole anything that wasn’t tied down in a way. He stole silver points which were valuable. These were drawing instruments made out
of silver from (inaudible) that –
ISAACSON: But he becomes Leonardo’s companion – life companion.
KEMP: He becomes one of the companions, yes.
ISAACSON: But the primary one, right?
KEMP: Yes. Leonardo writes at one point (inaudible) glutton. He’s absolutely irritated by Salai beyond belief and he talks up all the things
he’s stolen, makes a total of it.
ISAACSON: Right, but he takes him to dinner parties. We know that, and buys things for him.
KEMP: Yes. No, he’s obviously a very – very –
ISAACSON: Buys very expensive socks.
KEMP: — very beguiling figure. He claims to be able to paint and we now do have a painting by Salai from 1511 of Christ. (inaudible). But the
other companion is of a different order. It’s Francesco Melzi – younger than the aristocratic family, the counts of Melzi who live outside Milan –
and this is an educated man and this is the man who becomes the guardian of Leonardo’s posthumous treasures, particularly the notebooks. You know, he
liked attractive young men.
ISAACSON: And is it a problem for him? Is he OK with being gay in the late 1400s in Florence and Milan?
KEMP: I think it’s not quite thought of in our contemporary terms, but I think it’s very clear overall his sexual orientation was homosexual rather
ISAACSON: You keep discovering new things about him. Who his mother was, La Bella Principessa, a drawing Salvator Mundi, you know, controversial but
looks like it was from his hand. What are we going to discover next? Are we going to find some new notebook? Are we going to get Leda and the Swan
which I’ve always wanted to pop up?
ISAACSON: Because we know he did one, but we haven’t ever seen it, right?
KEMP: Yes. There are two dimensions to these act of discovery. One is obviously works of art appearing. Now there’s only since the Madonna
Benois and the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg which appeared around 1900, there’s been one painting. Salvator Mundi, so it’s not frequent. They
don’t come up –
ISAACSON: But we have a couple of drawings.
KEMP: We have a couple of drawings. We had the Madrid manuscripts – these amazing volumes in Madrid which came up in 1966, so I think –
ISAACSON: It shows all of the mechanics and all –
KEMP: Mechanics and –
ISAACSON: — engineering.
KEMP: — engineering and the casting techniques for the bronze horse he was doing in honor of Ludovico (inaudible) the Duke of Milan’s father (ph).
So there’s that element, and you can’t tell.
Something may come up. I think it gets less and less likely because people are much more alert now.
The other aspect of the discovery is like with the great figures with Dante, with Shakespeare and so on. They put so much in, they put so much
of their knowledge, their emotion into the works that there’s always more to get out of it. So, there’s always that — that fresh insight, which I –
– I hope I managed some in the book at least, which is a discovery, but it’s a — it’s adjusting our way of looking at things.
ISAACSON: Martin Kemp, thanks for all you’ve done and thanks for being with us.
KEMP: It’s my pleasure, Walter, thank you.
AMANPOUR: And it’s incredible to think that there is still more to learn and know about Leonardo’s work 500 years after his death.
That’s it for our program tonight. Remember, you can follow me, Walter and the show on Twitter. Thanks for watching Amanpour and Company on PBS and join us again next time.